“Rubbish, re-use, recycle, rubbish, re-use, recycle...” I rhythmically drone in my head, whilst sorting through discarded waste. Cardboard, tinned cans, and paper in distinct piles at my feet. By doing this, I'm contributing less to the environment I think, but am I? A small voice begins an internal debate. How can I be sure I'm not adding more to landfill? What if my efforts to separate get dumped with the rest of the trash?
This is what could be happening in your local authority CH4 Dispatches: Britain's Rubbish claimed. The programme lifted the lid on household bins, recycling, and the Government's latest policy review. The government wants to get tough and enforce a zero waste rule. I disagree. Zero waste will never be an attainable goal. Even if it was, it's too soon to implement this scheme. If local authorities and big business can't get recycling right, shouldn't householders have the right to complain? Instead, it's us who take the blame for not doing enough, and get in a tizz over what can be recycled and where. Councils follow their own individual guidelines: “Plastics go here, tinned cans and newspapers there, 'fraid we no longer accept cardboard...” Those three R's – reduce, re-use, recycle, read aloud seem simple enough, but the meaning has grown unclear. What should be relatively easy has fast become a grumbling task.
We could probably all do a little bit more and would if the message came across better. If manufacturers held up their hands. Shouldered more of the responsibility. Do more to reduce product packaging, use biodegradable alternatives, or offer refills. Local authorities need to clean up their act and improve access to recycling. What's the point if our personal efforts are lost due to council inefficiency? The government needs to think about our growing population. Flat-dwellers are often left out of recycling initiatives. A large majority of us would like to do more, but can only do the bare minimum. We have limited resources. We're not supplied with food compost bins, nor can we attempt to grow our own, devoid of balconies, windowsills, or green space. No, more robust measures have to be put in place if the government wants to use us as a shining example.
So what can you do? Continue to reduce, re-use and recycle. Raise your voice whilst taking these actions. Say what you like, what you don't like, and what will work in your borough. Adopt Sesame Street's Oscar The Grouch as your mascot, and sing his “I Love Trash” signature song. Recycling can be fun. Only buy what you need for the week. Re-use tea bags, and plastic food containers to freeze leftovers for quick meals. Make use of local facilities and recycle what you can. Speak up, tidy up and be proud of where you live. Be like Oscar, without turning into a grouch, and develop a passion for refuse.